Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Bora Bora is an island in the Leeward group of the Society Islands of French Polynesia, an overseas collectivity of France in the Pacific Ocean. The island, about 230 kilometres northwest of Papeete, is surrounded by a lagoon and a barrier reef. In the centre of the island are the remnants of an extinct volcano rising to two peaks, Mount Pahia and Mount Otemanu, the highest point at 727 metres. These are the most noticeable feature on the island

Bora Bora is a major international tourist destination, famous for its aqua-centric luxury resorts. The major settlement, Vaitape, is on the western side of the main island, opposite the main channel into the lagoon. Produce of the island is mostly limited to what can be obtained from the sea and the plentiful coconut trees, which were historically of economic importance for copra. According to a 2008 census, Bora Bora has a permanent population of 8,880.

The island was first inhabited by Polynesian settlers around the 4th century AD. The first European sighting was made by Jakob Roggeveen in 1722. James Cook sighted the island in 1770 and landed that same year.

The London Missionary Society arrived in 1820 and founded a Protestant church in 1890. Bora Bora was an independent kingdom until 1888 when its last queen Teriimaevarua III was forced to abdicate by the French who annexed the island as a colony.

World War II In World War II the United States chose Bora Bora as a South Pacific military supply base, and an oil depot, airstrip, seaplane base, and defensive fortifications were constructed. Known as "Operation Bobcat", it maintained a supply force of nine ships, 20,000 tons of equipment and nearly 7,000 men. Seven artillery guns were set up at strategic points around the island to protect it against potential military attack. However, the island saw no combat as the American presence on Bora Bora went uncontested over the course of the war. The base was officially closed on June 2, 1946. The World War II airstrip, which was never able to accommodate large aircraft, was French Polynesia's only international airport until Faa'a International Airport was opened in Papeete, Tahiti, in 1960.

Probably one of the best known "exotic" tourist destinations in the world, and the small island has the whole range of top end, five star, luxury chain hotels: most built in the de-rigeur style of thatched buros on stilts over the water.

We had a (very bad) tour of the island in an open lorry (Le Truc). We had no view of the sea, as it was on the other side of the bus. Many of the selfish passengers on the view side refused to let us even photograph the sea views. There were few stops for us to get out. In fact the main stops were the tried and tested "opportunity to buy" stops, where the tour operator gets a rake off. The first was at a tie-die place, selling dyed cloth - Chris "took the opportunity to buy" half a dozen of the wraps!. The second at a seedy rip off joint called "Bloody Mary's" which boasted the names of "famous people" who had visited, on boards outside. I had never heard of most of the aid "famous people", nor did I choose to buy one of their "famous" and expensive Bloody Mary Cocktails, sold in plastic cups.

For me Bora Bora was best forgotten. If you want an idyllic South Sea Island, then there are lots of others that are both more beautiful, and indeed better value for money. To me it is sad that there was nothing to remember other than these two (bad) opportunities to buy. And it was symptomatic of Mick Fogg, the Expedition Leader, that he was not interested in the shortcomings of this shore trip

Click on any of the small photos to get a larger version of that photo


The Silver Cloud was anchored beside us, and we were able to go onboard for lunch. The ship was very impressive, and had lots more space for passengers than an expedition ship. After enjoying lunch we went back ashore to take the advertised shuttle service to a motu for swimming. But true to the abysmal organisation of Mick Fogg, the Expedition Leader, the shuttle had stopped running and we could not go. The expedition staff on shore were clueless as to what was going on: I have no idea what Mick Fogg was up to during our stay on Bora Bora, he certainly was not leading from the front

On to Raiatea

South Seas Holiday